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Winds of Healing

Chapter Text

Winds of Healing CH 1

‘English’

‘thoughts’

“Westron”

“Sindarin”

“Quenya”

“Khuzdul”

[Black Speech]


 

Night had fallen, a crescent moon high in the sky with only the stars to accompany it. The thick canopy of the forest let only slivers of the moons light through the foliage to illuminate the forest floor below. Very little stirred, the nocturnal critters choosing to keep to the safety of their homes as the darkness strengthened. The few brave creatures who ventured from their dens skittered away from the road in terror as the sound of heavy boots crushing the fallen leaves grew closer.

[Where did the wench go?] the sound of Black Speech echoed throughout the forest as a troupe of three Orcs crashed throughout the underbrush and onto the road.

[She went this way, I can smell her blood,] one said leading the other two south.

[She’s running to the elf-scum!] another spat.

 [I think you will find gentlemen, that I have not done so,] a feminine voice spoke up as a cloaked figure dropped from the treetops to land catlike behind the three Orcs, a wicked curved blade in hand, [what a disappointment you lot have been. I was expecting more of a fight really,] she said, a feral grin the only thing visible of her face. The little light from the moon, gave her stormy eyes a dangerous glint as the Orcs took a step back. [Pity,] she mused aloud seconds before she lashed out with deadly accuracy and within moments the three Orcs lay dead at her feet, black blood leaking from the fatal wounds.

“Really what’s the point of hunting me for a week for it to be that easy?” the woman demanded kicking one of the bodies petulantly before she chuckled slightly, “I’ve been in my own company for too long.”

“I would say so Beriaiel, you have begun to talk to yourself.

“Ah, Glorfindel. I was wondering when someone would be sent out to find me,” she answered, pulling her hood down to reveal a cascade of long dark curls pulled back into several intricate braids that started either side of her head just behind her ears, each capped with beautiful jewelled beads that fell freely among the rest of her hair roughly tied off in a high ponytail.

“You certainly know how to cause a panic Aella,” Glorfindel responded with a small laugh, “your princes sent several ravens to my Lord Elrond shortly after you departed Erebor, well before the formal Dwarrow delegation.” Aella’s still youthful face pulled into an amused grin.

“Of course, they did. I would expect no less. Although I am disappointed they did not expect it from me,” she said cheekily.

“You grow more impish each passing year, Aella, most of your race I find do the opposite,” Glorfindel said with an amused huff, his golden tresses silvered in the moonlight.

Aella smirked dusting herself off. “Nearly all my closest friends are pranksters Glorfindel, why are you so surprised.”

“You raise a fair argument there mellonin, and with that we should make haste to Imladris. We are expecting the arrival of the Ringbearer within days.”

“And that my friend is why I left weeks before the formal delegation,” Aella stated, “tell me what news have you of young Frodo?”

“You teaching Estel how to make use of ravens means we have maintained contact with them as they traversed the wilderness,” Glorfindel said as he began to lead Aella at a jog through the trees.

“I knew it would be of use someday.”

“Our last contact with them was last night,” Glorfindel continued, a frown of concern pulling at his fair features. “The Ringbearer was stabbed by a morgul blade upon Amon Sûl by one of the Nazgûl, Estel managed to get the hobbits to the Troll Statues in the Trollshaws.”

“And that explains why you are here without Asfaloth, Arwen went to him didn’t she?”

“On my horse. Yes,” Glorfindel sighed exasperated, “her brothers followed after her to give them further aid.” Aella averted her eyes at his words.

“I shall take my guess that that was at your suggestion by your silence.”

“Perhaps I said there may be more than one hobbit, and that it would be far more confusing to the Nazgûl if there were four riders with four hobbits…” Aella answered somewhat sheepishly.

“And you know this how? I do not remember telling you how many were in the party.”

“Estel sent me a raven directly upon leaving Bree, and I sent a raven to the twins to prepare them in case such an event occurred. I was not expecting Arwen to go, in fact I was expecting it to be you,” Aella answered seriously.

“That would explain why Elladan and Elrohir were so quick to action after receiving the news. You had a feeling this would happen.”

“Yes. During my time in the East and South I came across many tales of riders in Black. He has been recruiting many of the Haradrim tribes. His presence in Rhûn was still quite weak, only whispers until about seventeen years ago. That was when his recruitment grew forceful. He’s begun enslaving many, while others are going willingly. The Blue Wizards and I have set up a resistance of sorts in the East and the South. We have allies there, many refuse to live under his tyranny again. They have built lives for themselves in their lands, and they want to keep that freedom,” Aella explained as they ran.

“You have been busy.”

“I went to learn from them. So many here in the West write them off as savages simply because they do not live the way the Men of the West do. Their cultures are so different, some are people of peace while others, there is no denying that they are people of war. What the Free Peoples have stopped doing, is recognising that there is a difference between the two. But that aside you will hear my full report when the council meets. That I believe is a major reason for my presence being necessary.”

“You are needed for far more than that Beriaiel, of that you can be certain,” Glorfindel stated strongly as the two came to a halt on the ridge that overlooked the Valley of Imladris.

“Oh, I know Glorfindel. I know that all too well,” Aella said watching as the moon rose to its highest peak before the two made their way down the ridge, and into the Last Homely House.

 

. . .

 

Aella was waiting for the Children of Elrond in the main courtyard as soon as she heard the elvish horns sound, alerting the Valley to their return. She had been in Imladris for two days and had grown more nervous as she was forced to wait. Elrond had explicitly forbidden her to leave after he had to stitch her up after her run in with the Orcs. The thundering of hooves on the cobbled paths leading into the courtyard startled Aella from her anxiety. Turning to look towards the entrance, the former Ranger of the North spotted the familiar white coat of Asfaloth as the stallion bore Arwen and Frodo into the courtyard.

“Alert Lord Elrond!” she commanded the serving ellon who had been waiting with her – more like keeping an eye on her – sharply. Not waiting to see if he had heeded her words the short woman strode forward to meet Elrond’s daughter halfway.

“He’s fading fast,” the elleth reported as she reigned in Asfaloth.

“The poison is taking hold then,” Aella commented stoically, as she helped Arwen dismount without jostling the injured hobbit, “I have already sent for your Father, but you had best make for the Healing Halls. I will see to Asfaloth and await your brothers and Estel.”

“Thank you mellonin,” the elleth rushed out before making her way into the Last Homely House with hurried steps. Aella easily caught the reigns of the magnificent white stallion as she watched the elleth and her charge go. She murmured praises to the beast in the lyrical language of the elves as she led the horse towards the stables, where she handed him over to a stablehand before returning to the courtyard. She had barely returned when the sound of thundering hooves once again sounded, louder this time around for the additional number that rode.  This time Aella did not wait, she rushed forward and met the Twins at the entrance to the courtyard.

“El!” Elladan called out as they approached.

“None of you are hurt?” she called back in question even as her grey-blue eyes flickered across their beings. The riders slowed their horses to a stop before dismounting with their hobbit charges; Merry with Elladan, and Pippin, Elrohir.

“No, we led the Nazgûl on a merry chase however. Has Arwen returned?” Elrohir asked dismounting before helping the abnormally quiet Peregrin Took down from the bay stallion.

“Yes. I have sent her ahead to the Healing Halls, your Father should already be with them,” she answered stepping forward to catch both Hobbits in a fierce hug. The young hobbits clutched at her tightly in return.

“Will Frodo be okay?” Pippin asked, seeming almost unbearably young and Aella had to remind herself that the lad was not even yet of age, a mere twenty-eight.

She tightened her grip on them both, running a soothing hand through the hobbit’s almost golden curls. “He is in the hands of one of the best elvish healers in all of Arda, young one. I have faith in Lord Elrond’s abilities to bring our dear Frodo back to us,” she answered before she readjusted her grip on both Hobbits – one under each arm – as she led them through to the courtyard, the Twins following behind with their horses, “come now let us not waste the day standing in the gateway.”

Just as Aella, Merry, and Pippin reached the stairs that led into the Last Homely House, a third sounding of hooves upon cobble announced the arrival of the last of the hobbits and the Ranger who rode with him. The trio turned around to meet Strider and Sam as they rode into the courtyard.

“Strider,” Aella greeted, feeling what was left of her anxiety ease with the presence of the Man.

Beriaiel,” he replied dismounting tiredly, helping an anxious Sam down a moment later.

“Where is Mister Frodo,” the Gardener asked.

“In the Healing Halls with Lord Elrond, and the Lady Arwen,” Aella answered beckoning the hobbit forward as she spoke, “as I told Merry, and Pippin, I have faith in Lord Elrond’s abilities to bring our dear Frodo back to us, so do not fret so dear Sam.” The Gamgee lad managed to last only another moment before he too ended up in Aella’s embrace. The Dúnedain woman looked up from the hobbit’s golden-brown curls, to meet the grey eyes of the Man she had known since he was a babe.

“Thank you for protecting them Estel,” she said falling easily into Sindarin as she watched him approach after handing the reins of his horse over to a stable hand who had come to fetch it.

Grey eyes filled with sorrow. “And yet Frodo was still wounded.”

“He will live dear one, treating him with athelas slowed the spread of the poison long enough for Arwen to get him here,” Aella responded with a soft smile, which softened further as she watched the tension bleed from the Man’s bearing. Affecting a no nonsense but gentle air she spoke again, this time in the common tongue, “come now, let us get you all refreshed and fed. You’ve had a harrowing journey and require some creature comforts methinks.” With that she led the three young Hobbits and the Ranger up the stairs and across the threshold of the Last Homely House. Easily ushering the Hobbits in front of her as she guided them to the chambers that had been prepared for their arrival.

An hour later, the Hobbits were set in front of a veritable feast prepared by the kitchens and had finally relaxed after hearing enough reassurances from the brunette woman that Frodo was in the best care possible. Estel had disappeared after he’d seen the Hobbits safely to their rooms with Aella, and she had seen hide nor hair of him since. Although she was not at all surprised and knew he would seek her company when he was ready. As it was, Aella spent the rest of the day in the company of the Hobbits. Listening to their tale of their journey and imparting some of her own as was oft the case when she was in their presence.

“…and they paint their war beasts with red ochre, white paint, and kohl creating terrifying images along the Oliphant’s body to intimidate their enemies. In contrast you’ll find the tribes of Near Harad prefer their desert-reared horses to the grand beasts of the Far Haradric Jungles. A purebred Sand-mare is known for it’s endurance and ability to speed across the sands of the Great Desert with little need for water or food,” Aella said as she spoke of her travels to the Far South.

“I can’t believe you’ve ridden an Oliphant Aella,” Pippin whined from his place leaning against her legs.

“An experience I’ll not likely forget any time soon, they are beautiful if not intimidating creatures. It’s a pity that they are often reared for war,” she said with a sad smile even as she ran her hands through the youngest Hobbit lad’s curls.

“Tell us again about your Dwarf Prince,” Merry demanded, blue eyes bright. Aella laughed delightedly.

“Which one my dear Merry? The one I call Brother or the one that holds my heart?” she asked playfully.

“Your betrothed!” Pippin requested with the backed-up agreement of the other two. Aella let out another delighted laugh at the request.

“And what is it that you would like to know? I have told you many a time of how it was we met, and you’ve heard it time and again when Bilbo tells his account of the Quest for Erebor,” she said raising her brows in inquiry even as she smiled warmly.

It was Merry who spoke. “What does he look like?”

“Well, he is of average height for a Dwarf but is still taller than me much to my dismay, though truly I do enjoy it more than I like to admit,” she began, eyes clouding as a sappy smile pulled at her lips as she spoke, “his hair and beard are the colour of spun gold and when the light touches it he appears to be set ablaze. His eyes are as deep as the ocean and often adjust between the colour of sapphires to the blue of a midsummer’s sky depending on the light. He is strong, and a warrior; in battle he is as graceful as an elven dancer as he defeats one foe after the other.”

“What’s he like Miss Aella? As a person I mean,” Sam asked from where he was seated across from her, smoking his pipe.

“He is kind, and incredibly noble; he does whatever he can to help his Uncle – The King Under the Mountain – to rule over Erebor even if it sees him exhausting himself as he works himself to the bone. He loves his people and his family and will help anyone who asks for aid without question,” she answered, a playful smile appearing as she spoke, “he is also quite mischievous, despite their age when he and his brother get together they are quite the pranksters and trouble often follows, although they are quite harmless. He makes me laugh and gives the warmest hugs. If Dwarrow had middle names my dear Hobbits, my Fíli’s would be ‘Honourable’; he is just, caring, and forgiving. He has a quiet intelligence, he is incredibly knowledgeable but chooses not to express it until it is necessary, while also being one of the most patient beings I have ever met.”

“He sounds lovely,” the Gardener said.

“That he is Sam. Better than I deserve, but I am too selfish to let him go,” she said cheekily.

“You love him a lot don’t you Aella,” Pippin stated tilting his head back to look up at her with hazel-green eyes.

“Indeed, I do Pippin,” she said tugging playfully on his curls, “he is my other half, the One that bears my heart and my soul.”

“I think I would like a love like that,” Merry mused from where he sat on the settee next to the dark-haired woman.

“You will find yours in time Meriadoc, just be patient” she replied with a warm smile, grey-blue eyes twinkling in amusement as the young Brandybuck blushed at her words. 

“I want one too!” Pippin exclaimed loudly earning a round of laughter from the three other occupants of the room. Their conversation drifted on to other topics but as it grew later, and the moon shone overhead Aella said her goodnights and left the Hobbits to their beds.

Choosing to wander the halls of the Last Homely House for a while yet before seeking her own pillow, Aella found herself drawn to the courtyard that sixty years prior had been the haunt of thirteen Dwarrow, a Hobbit, and a much younger version of herself. She was surprised to find she was not alone in her wanderings when she spotted a very familiar if not older face.

“Bilbo!” she greeted the older Hobbit with delight. Gliding to his side where he sat on a stone bench, and easily kneeling before him.

“Aella dear!” the Hobbit returned, hugging the Dúnedain woman warmly, “it’s been too long.”

“That it has my friend,” she responded, pulling away from the embrace to hold the elderly Hobbit’s frail hands in hers.

“I suppose you are here for the council Lord Elrond has called to deal with that pesky ring I picked up in the Goblin Tunnels?” Bilbo asked a rueful smile upon his wrinkled lips.

“I am,” she answered squeezing his hand comfortingly, seeing no point in beating around the bush. Not with Bilbo.

“Lindir told me that Frodo was injured by the Nazgúl journeying here,” he said after a moment.

“He was stabbed by a morgul blade, but thanks to Estel’s quick work with athelas, the poison was slowed. He will live, Lord Elrond and Arwen have been seeing to his care,” the Dúnedain woman said consolingly.

“But at what cost?” the Hobbit demanded sharply before his tone became regretful, “none of this would have happened if I hadn’t found the blasted thing.”

“Perhaps so. But then the Enemy may have found it instead and the world as we know it would have collapsed around our very ears,” she argued, “despite the sorrow and pain it has caused and will continue to cause. That it came to you and then to Frodo to guard until the time came that we were able to deal with it, may very well have given us enough time to seek the answers that may save all of Arda. I am sorry my dear friend for the burden of knowledge you now must bear.”

“You truly think that we can find a solution to dealing with the Ring and its Dark Master?” he asked, his voice trembling with emotion.

“I do Bilbo, I really do,” Aella answered earnestly, “and I believe that you finding the Ring before the Enemy could, may well have been the act that will lead to our salvation.”

“Thank you,” he murmured after a moment and Aella could only squeeze his hands in comfort.

After several more moments of silence the dark-haired woman broke it. “Enough talk of such a melancholic subject, perhaps I could interest you in some news of Erebor?” she asked, smiling gently when the Hobbit agreed with great haste. The two old friends spent the rest of the evening speaking of Erebor and reminiscing on their time as members of the Company of Thorin Oakenshield.

 

. . .

 

A week and a half later saw Aella once again sitting with the young Hobbits alongside Bilbo in one of the many airy solars of Imladris, while Frodo remained deep in a healing sleep. The Hobbits were catching Bilbo up on all he had missed in his absence from the Shire, while Aella listened in interest even as she idly sharpened her faithful blade Alagos.

Several days prior, the council representatives of Lothlorien arrived from the Golden Wood, and word had been sent ahead that the delegations from both Mirkwood, Dale, Esgaroth, and Erebor would be arriving within the week. If Aella had thought waiting for news about the Hobbits had been difficult, waiting for the arrival of the delegation of Dwarves from Erebor was near unbearable. So when the young Hobbits had asked for yet another retelling of the Quest for Erebor, Aella had eagerly jumped at the distraction it provided.

“While I had been playing a potentially dangerous game of riddles in the dark. High above, among the suspended wooden structures of Goblin Town, Aella faced off with the Great Goblin; a foul warty fellow whose belly was engorged and had eyes that bulged out of his head,” Bilbo recited, falling easily into the role of storyteller, “he had been rather upset over how their previous acquaintance had ended and decided to kill two birds with one stone, to punish her for her escape and seek answers from the Company of Dwarves that had decided to make camp right on his front porch. But Aella was stronger than any the Dwarves had ever seen, taking the lashes of the Great Goblin’s whip and begging them not to say a word. Then just as Gandalf always says, with a bright flash of light from his staff the Wizard arrived in time to incite the Dwarves to escape. The escape was swift, with Gandalf slaying the Great Goblin in the process. I of course had won my game of riddles though the creature was beyond consolation and a very poor loser, so in my own escape I found myself following the same path and stumbling across the rest of the Company on the slopes of the Mountain. Thorin of course demanded to know why I had come back, for really he had been quite rude, and just as I was about to answer Aella startled everyone when she succumbed to a faint –”

“– and when she decides to run off in the middle of the night, several days ahead of the scheduled delegation,” another voice interrupted. Aella spun around in her seat so fast that her loose curls – with exception of her braids – flared out behind her.

“Kíli!” she shrieked in girlish glee, dropping Alagos onto the settee beside her as she vaulted the back of the chair without a thought given to the elven dress she wore, to rush the smirking dark-haired Dwarf who stood in the doorway of the solar. The Dwarf Prince altered his stance ever so slightly just in time to catch the short Dúnadain woman and spin her around, before setting her on her feet and pulling her into a tight embrace. Pulling away only after pressing her forehead against his in the Dwarvish sign of affection, Aella studied the travel weary Dwarf before her. His dark-hair reached well passed his shoulders now and was kept back in an array of braids as befitted his station and marital status as a married Dwarf and Father of two children. His beard had finally settled in just after his eighty-fifth birthday, although he had taken to keeping it trimmed short out of fear of catching it in his bowstring. Despite the minor differences that denoted the years that had passed since she had first met him, he was much unchanged. His dark eyes still twinkling with mischief and a smirk upon his lips.

“Couldn’t wait could you,” he said after completing his own study of her.

“You know why I couldn’t,” she responded easily, knowing he wasn’t truly angry with her.

“Fíli near had a heart-attack when he realised you were gone. Mother and Lilja had a time of it trying to calm him down, while Thorin found the whole thing absurdly funny and did nothing but laugh,” Kíli reported with an amused smile as they let go of each other.

“I left him a note,” Aella said concerned, “did he not get it?”

“Oh, he got it alright. But El, simply writing ‘off to Rivendell ahead of schedule, see you when I return, hugs and kisses’ doesn’t really fill one with confidence. Especially since you’d only been back a day. Mother had to threaten him with house-arrest to stop him from charging after you. Lís and Alvi found the whole debacle incredibly exciting and were egging their uncle on something shocking.”

“It was more forthcoming than that,” she pouted.

“All the same, I have never seen my brother that panicked except for the day you two finally braided your betrothal braids,” Kíli laughed. Aella simply shook her head at the Dwarf before catching his hand and pulling him back towards the Hobbits she had been sitting with. After introductions had been had, Aella immediately asked after Kíli’s children.

“How are my niece and nephew?”

“Lís adored the gifts you brought her. How you managed to acquire raw diamonds from the Orocani for her I know not, but she is excited and entirely too impatient to wait until her birthday to start her apprenticeship. Alvi was also rather impressed at the scrolls you brought him from Rhûn. He and Ori were glued to them just before I left.”

“And Lilja?” she asked.

“Highly amused by the commotion her sister in law made when she disappeared not a day after she had returned to the Mountain for the first time in over a year.” Aella blushed at the slight admonishment.

“Just how upset is Fíli?” Bilbo asked an amused smile on his lips.

“I think some of his last words to me were, ‘if it weren’t for that Mahal damned council, I would demand you bring her straight back here, so I can lock her up. Just so she can’t vanish again!’. As it is, he has just asked I escort you back to Erebor once our presence is no longer required,” the Dwarf Prince answered with a cheeky grin, which only served to darken the blush staining the Dúnadain woman’s cheeks.

“I didn’t mean to leave so quickly!” she exclaimed embarrassedly, “but when I got the raven from Estel informing me of what was going on I had to leave.”

“Perhaps but you didn’t need to leave like a Thief in the night,” Kíli commented drily.

“Dwalin would never have let me leave without an escort if he had caught me leaving!”

“True enough,” he responded, “but that’s the life of a future Dwarrow Princess.”

“Is Dís still planning the wedding for next year?” Bilbo asked.

“Last I heard, though she is postponing setting the date until Aella returns to Erebor for good which you did tell her would be soon,” he answered aiming the latter half at Aella.

“And I stand by what I said,” she responded with a light blush and a radiant smile. The thought of finally being married to Fíli was one that filled her days with light even as the darkness closed in.

“That’s good to know, maybe he will finally stop being a lovesick fool once you are wed,” Kíli commented drily.

“I think you expect too much dear Kíli. I fear that the two of them will only get worse,” Bilbo said, in his jest seeming to appear years younger. Aella chuckled along with the younger Hobbits as the Dwarf Prince groaned exaggeratedly.

“They are already the mushiest people I have ever seen, and I’ve grown up watching Glóin with Fjóla,” Kíli whined, leading on to yet another round of raucous laughter from the younger Hobbits. As if speaking of him summoned him, the gruff voice of Glóin announced his arrival to the solar.

“Ah there’s our runaway Princess,” he grumbled, Durin blue eyes alight with affection as the now white-haired Dwarf walked in alongside his son Gimli.

“Glóin! Gimli,” the dark-haired woman greeted warmly, standing to embrace both Dwarrow. Knocking foreheads gently with both as she did so.

“You’ve caused quite a stir Ardûna,” Gimli said, his voice a joyful rumble.

“So Kíli has said, I didn’t mean to cause trouble,” she responded stepping away from the auburn-haired Dwarf and his father.

“Nothing that hasn’t been dealt with before naith-ê,” Glóin barked out with a laugh, patting her firmly on the shoulder before turning his blue eyes on Bilbo, “now let’s greet our Hobbit now hmm?”

The rest of the day was filled with laughter as the Dwarrow and the young Hobbits became acquainted. After dinner Kíli stole Aella away from the Hall of Fire where the other Dwarves and Hobbits had retired for the evening. Leading her deep along the paths of the gardens of Imladris, before breaking the silence that had fallen over the pair.

“Explain to me exactly what is going on kurdunana’?” he asked quietly as they wandered the paths, her hand in the crook of his elbow. The former Ranger of the North sighed minutely before explaining, keeping her voice soft.

“You must remember last year, the emissary from the South that came offering friendship and asking after a Hobbit bearing a ring?” she began.

“Yes, Thorin did not trust him and said nothing except for sending him away. It was only because he knew Bilbo to be safe here in Rivendell that he did not send word.”

“Well the emissary was from Naragzudnu (Mordor), they were seeking Bilbo and the Ring he found in the tunnels below Goblin Town.”

“Why would Naragzudnu be seekin…” Kíli trailed off, looking at her in horror.

“Yes, the One Ring has been found and it was our Hobbit who found it and has since guarded it without knowing,” she confirmed, “when Bilbo left the Shire for his last venture to Erebor before I escorted him back here to Rivendell, he left the Ring in trust to his nephew Frodo along with Bag-End.”

“But that was seventeen years ago!” Kíli exclaimed.

“Indeed, it was. Frodo had no idea the importance of the Ring he kept hidden on request of Gandalf. Tharkún had begun to grow suspicious of how slowly Bilbo appeared to be aging and believed the Ring to be the cause. He only recently discovered it’s origins and a month ago sent word to Frodo ordering him to head for Bree, and just in time too; the Nazgûl attacked Sarn Ford the night he left alongside his Gardener Samwise Gamgee,” she continued, telling Kíli of how she had received word from Estel who had been asked to guide the Hobbits to Rivendell.

“A Morgul blade?” Kíli breathed.

“Yes, very similar to the arrow you were once pierced with however the one who wielded the blade is far more poisonous than a simple infected arrow. The effect that consumed Frodo was the Black Breath, I have no doubt it was the Witch-King himself who stabbed Frodo.”

“And yet he will live?”

“Yes. Estel managed to slow the poison long enough for Arwen to bring Frodo to her Father. Lord Elrond has healed the physical effects, but the wound is much more than a simple stab wound Kíli. The spiritual damage caused by the poison will likely never fully heal,” she confessed quietly tightening her grip on her heart-brother’s arm.

“And the council has been called to discuss what we should do about the Ring,” Kíli stated bluntly.

“Yes, though there is only one option. It must be destroyed,” she said solemnly.

“We have forges that could…” he began.

“No kurdukharm, it must be destroyed in the flames whence it was crafted, all other flames do naught but reveal its power,” she interrupted gently, patting his hand apologetically for cutting in.

“No. You are not taking it,” Kíli said determinedly turning to face her, expression austere.

“I have no desire to ever touch the cursed thing,” she responded honestly, watching as the dark-haired Dwarf calmed somewhat.

“Then that is the true purpose of the Council? To find someone to bear the Ring to Dumsabad (Mount Doom)?”

“Yes,” she answered. Choosing not to speak of those who would likely offer to go with the Ringbearer, herself included.

“Alright, I will make sure that the Dwarves of Erebor alert the council of the emissary and the threats we have since received. It might be best if Gimli reports it, as he has been the one dealing with them since taking up as one of Thorin’s administrators,” he stated.

“Whatever you must do, I will be reporting my dealings with the Easterlings and the Southrons myself. It will be enlightening regardless of the outcome,” she said, pausing her sentence as she spotted Estel walking along the path coming from the opposite direction. A playful smile coming to her lips as she addressed him, “had a nice walk with Arwen did you mellnin (my dear)?”

The Ranger jerked to a stop, grey eyes wide as he spotted her, “Eruemel (Godmother).” Aella snorted in amusement as the Dúnedain Ranger began to blush in the moonlight.

“Really Estel, did you think I did not know?” she asked with a playful smile.

“Uh –” he stuttered.

“Oh, come here you silly boy,” she said with a chuckle, this had been the first time she had seen him outside of meals since they had debriefed after his arrival. Aella would be the first to admit her amusement that, despite the age of the Man in front of her, he still came to her when she called. Estel approached the short Dúnadain woman and the Dwarf Prince who was simply smiling amusedly. The dark-haired woman let go of her heart-brother to pull the much taller man into her embrace, chuckling under her breath as she whispered in his ear.

“I approve even if it is not strictly necessary,” she said enjoying his blush.

“Eruemel!” he choked out startled, only to relax when she laughed delightedly.

“It is my job to tease you dear, I’ve known you since you were a babe,” she said patting his hand as she released him from the hug.

“She uses that line on everyone,” Kíli said with a grin as he shook the Man’s hand firmly, “it is good to see you Aragorn.”

“And you Kíli, how is the Mountain?” Aragorn asked smiling at the Dwarf Prince even as his cheeks returned to his natural colouring.

“In good hands, although Fíli was still trying to find a way to shirk his duties to chase after his errant betrothed,” the dark-haired Dwarf said with a sly grin.

“You have made your point Kee,” Aella chided as she smacked his arm lightly, though she had a smile on her face as she did so.

“And your family?” the Ranger inquired as he fell in step beside the two as they continued their walk.

“Lilja is hale as are Alvi and Lís, while Mother has been kept busy between being a Grandmother and planning Fíli and Aella’s wedding. Uncle is well and although he is getting on in years still rules Erebor peacefully,” Kíli answered, “Fíli has been taking on more responsibilities as Crown Prince over the last four decades, though he is aiding Thorin in nearly all areas of Kingship now in preparation if the worst should happen. I of course took over some of the Crown Prince’s duties to lighten his load and will likely continue to do so until he has his own children.”

“It is good to hear all is well in Erebor,” Aragorn said as he walked alongside Aella with his hands behind his back.

“All is as well as it can be during these darkening times, tell me what have you been up to since we last met? It has been at least a decade or more,” the dark-haired Dwarf Prince asked.

“Indeed, it has been several years, and mostly either doing Gandalf’s bidding or leading the Dúnedain,” the Ranger responded.

“Tell me mellnin, what news of the Rangers? I haven’t heard much from Halbarad in recent months,” Aella asked.

“You speak as if you are no longer a Ranger of the North, Aunt,” Aragorn teased gently.

“It has been years since I wore their garb dear, though I suppose that does not change the fact I shall likely be a Ranger until the day Mandos calls me to his Halls,” Aella responded with a wry smile.

“That you are, Dwarrow Princess or not. But as for your question the Dúnedain have been facing a growing number of Orc attacks across northern Eriador and Rhudaur,” he reported, continuing solemnly “we lost our patrol at Sarn Ford, when the Nagûl passed through to cross into the Shire.”

“May Eru guard their rest,” Aella murmured, “they will be missed, have their families been notified?”

“Aye, Alston and Berian informed them and passed on their blades.” Aella smiled slightly at the names of her dear late friend Alton’s children; who she had seen grow up and helped train.

“Alton would be proud of the both of them,” she said quietly.

“They are good Captains, and do well for their subordinates,” Aragorn agreed.

“So other than a rise in Orc activity has there been much else?” Aella asked after a moment of grief for her friend.

“Not that has been noticed, Halbarad has been leading those who remained in the north, while Alston and Berian have been working with the Rangers guarding the Shire.  No one has seen much else besides the Black Riders.”

“It does not hurt to remain vigilant,” Aella reminded, “have you sent word to Halbarad?”

“I have, he has orders to continue in my stead until after the Council convenes. I will send another message once we have more information,” the Dúnedain Chieftain answered, “what news from the East?”

“Much. I will of course speak of it during the council, but we have allies in the East and South. Not all are under the rule of Mordor, many wish to continue their lives of peace and have chosen to fight for it. It is mostly the war-like tribes of Rhûn, Khand, and Harad which have answered call of Mordor, though there were those unwillingly enslaved,” Aella answered.

“You have been busy,” Aragorn responded.

“The Blue Wizards laid the groundwork long before I got there,” she retorted playfully, before continuing, “without the work Morinehtar and Rómestámo have done since arriving in Middle Earth, I likely would have failed in my attempts. Though I did originally head East to learn of their healing methods, healers are awful gossips and also the easiest place to start when seeking to start a Rebellion against Mordor.”

“I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future,” Kíli commented drily.

“There is a reason Óin always seems to be deaf only when it suits him,” Aella responded slyly, blue-grey eyes sparkling with amusement. “He would have been a good Spymaster.”

“What?!”

“Oh, didn’t you know?” she said with false innocence.

“No! How in the name of Mahal?” Kíli blustered.

“Selective hearing kurdukharm, selective hearing.”

 

. . .

 

It was a sunny autumn day when Frodo finally woke from the healing sleep he had fallen into with Gandalf by his bedside. That day and the following saw him reunite with his kin, both the young Hobbits and his Uncle. The week and a half since the Dwarves of Erebor arrived, saw the arrival of the delegations of Mirkwood, Dale and Esgaroth, Lothlorien, Mithlond, Rohan, and of Gondor. Aella had met and spoken with each delegation during the feasts that honoured their arrival and had been most interested in those who she knew would not be taking part in the journey ahead.

Her first conversation with Boromir son of Denethor after his arrival to Imladris, had also been an interesting one. For despite how young he had been at the time, he remembered Aella riding with Aragorn when he fought under the pseudonym Thorongil – and she under the name Eadhild – in the armies of Rohan and Gondor. Aella had been impressed as she had not stayed in Carenarod (The Hall of Nobles) nor any of the Arodsennas (Noble guesthouses) during her time in Gondor. Even in her more recent visits to the city before the death of Finduilas – when Denethor finally snapped in her opinion – she had not, having preferred staying in the taverns on the city’s sixth level. Aella admitted she had avoided both Boromir and Faramir on most of her visits as she had always struggled to reconcile their fates with the innocence they held as children. Much the same as what she did with the house of Eorl, although Theoden had been hard to avoid after he had succeeded his father Thengal she had somewhat managed to keep her distance with his son Theodred.

Speaking with the Rohirric delegation, Aella had been most intrigued to find that Elfhelm the King’s brother-in-law – via his marriage to Theoden’s immediate younger sister Fenwyn – and his captain had actually been sent to the Council by Theodred. While they had spoken of the Kings ailment and of the increased Orc activity along their northern and western borders to her, Aella was sure they would not say anything during the Council for fear of their weakness being known.

As it was, on the morning of October 25th Aella awoke to the sun streaming through the sheer curtains of her suites and a knock upon the door. She had barely called out a word of invitation before Arwen and a trail of maids burst into the suite. Aella cracked open a blue-grey eye to blearily glare at the elleth.

“You take far too much joy out of inflicting torture upon me mellonin,” the Dúnedain woman grumbled as she was cajoled out of bed by the dark-haired elleth; who was making quick orders to the maids in the lilting elven tongue for a bath to be drawn and for Aella’s formal gowns be readied.

“I have no idea what you are talking about El,” said elleth responded easily, ushering the shorter woman towards the bath. Once Aella had been encased in the searing water of the bath, she began to wake up.

“You do so,” she responded, “I do not understand why I must be woken up long before the Council only to have to suffer through several hours of torture…”

“And I do not understand how it is that a future Princess of Dwarrow can hate dressing up for formal events,” Arwen interrupted.

“I have spent the better part of a hundred and twenty years in the wilds mellonin, can you really say you are surprised,” Aella replied with an amused smirk, Arwen’s sigh drew a chuckle from the shorter woman.

“Well I am under strict orders from Ada on this El, so you won’t be getting out of it,” the elleth retorted, smirking as it was Aella’s turn to sigh. The Dúnedain woman grumbled quietly as she undid her braids to let her friend wash her hair with the arrayed soaps and oils. She was soon deemed clean enough and then ushered out of the bath and into a robe, so that she could eat a light breakfast of fruits, bread, and cheese while Arwen combed through her waist length tresses.

“Your hair has grown immensely,” the elleth commented as she pulled the silver comb through Aella’s chocolate curls.

“Yes, and the only person who can cut it now is stuck in Erebor because he is the Crown Prince,” the Ranger said.

“Ah yes, the Dwarrow hold hair in high regard. I take it that your betrothed being the only one able to cut your hair is part of one of the cultural concessions they are implementing for you?”

“Yes, Dís argued with the council on my behalf but in the end, I had to let my hair grow out to nearly past my hips before they would concede that human hair grows so much faster and therefore requires slightly different care,” Aella answered before grumbling, “bunch of controlling old busybodies.”

“Seems the Lady Dís is just as fearsome as Elladan and Elrohir have told me,” Arwen said.

“She is very fierce, but she is also one of the kindest, gentlest ladies I have ever had the pleasure of meeting,” the Ranger answered with a smile as she popped a cherry into her mouth.

“I would love the chance to meet the Dwarrowdam that has earned such esteem from you mellonin,” the elleth said stepping away once she had finished her task, “once your hair is a little dryer, I will get you to replace your braids and then place your circlet, while Annûndes does your makeup.”

“Your Father wants me in makeup?” Aella asked in alarm, pausing in eating the apple slice she’d picked up.

“Yes, he wants no one to doubt your place on the council,” Arwen responded, taking a seat opposite the shorter woman, “you will be dressed for your station as the Champion of the Valar.”

“That does not make me feel any better,” the Ranger replied in trepidation.

“I think you will like the newest formal attire I had designed for this occasion mellonin,” the elleth responded with a sly smile as she stole a grape and popped it in her mouth.

 

. . .

 

“Alright, I will admit I love this far more than any other type of formal wear you have tried to put me into,” Aella said as she studied her reflection in the full-body mirror provided.

Arwen had commissioned instead of a gown, a tunic and trouser set. The tunic had a modest collar with short sleeves that only just covered her shoulders. However, it had been designed with a low cut back, which dipped to the small of her back and had surprised the Ranger. But as she turned slightly to show her shoulder she understood. The Mark of the Valar was completely visible were it was etched on her left shoulder blade; as were the other tattoos the Ranger had received over the years. The tunic was a deep midnight blue – the colour of the Line of Durin – with silver embroidery. While the pants she wore were a solid black but were designed to look like a skirt when she stood still. The skirt of the tunic had a split running down each side from hip to knee, giving Aella full movement.

The makeup the elleth maid Annûndes had painted on her face was thankfully rather light; kohl lined eyes and lashes, light rouge on cheeks and lips, and a powder that had smoothed her complexion. To finish off the look Arwen had directed Aella to braid her usual braids before the elleth secured everything in a ponytail at the nape of her neck. The elleth had then pulled out a circlet that Aella recognised as the one Fíli had commissioned for her. A beautiful mithril and gold filigree piece with sapphires and diamonds. The whole ensemble while very feminine also showed her for who she was; a warrior, and a future princess.

“I still can’t believe Kíli brought the circlet,” Aella murmured gently fiddling with her courting beads.

“I believe he said that your beloved forced him to,” Arwen said with a light chuckle even as handed a brand-new set of boots to the shorter woman who immediately pulled them on, “now since you’re ready, I’ll lead you to Ada’s study.”

“He does remember that I know where it is doesn’t he?” Aella asked amused, even as she followed the elleth out of her suites and to the main estate and thus the Lord of the Valley’s study. Arwen left her at the door leaving the dark-haired Dúnedain woman to enter alone.

Entering the study, Aella easily made her way to the courtyard that had been set up for the council, with chairs arranged in a semi-circle facing the small dais and a stone plinth set in the centre. Already in attendance Aella was grateful to see Elrond and his sons, Erestor, Glorfindel, Legolas and his delegation, and to her immense relief the Dwarrow of Erebor. Upon her entrance, Elrond’s steward Melpomaen announced her causing all eyes to turn on her. She took the few stairs down into the courtyard gracefully, before curtseying to Lord Elrond.

“Ah Beriaiel, I see Arwen chose correctly with her commission. I had wondered,” Elrond said walking over from where he had been in discussion with both Erestor and Glorfindel.

“She knows me well my Lord,” the Ranger answered with an amused smile.

“Come now mellonin, it is rare that we get to see you dressed so,” Glorfindel called as he wandered over, “give us a twirl, let us see what the Lady Arwen has designed.” Aella rolled her eyes but did as asked, making sure to show off her pants.

“How ingenious,” the Balrog-slayer mused while he grinned at the short woman, “you look stunning mellnin.”

“Thank you, my Lord. Now do forgive me but I must ask. Where in Arda am I sitting? I have too many affiliations within this Council.”

“Ah, we were just discussing that. I was going to suggest either with Prince Kíli, or with Estel,” Elrond stated, after a few moments thought Aella made her decision,

“I will sit with my kurdukharm, Estel is old enough to decide where to sit on his own. It would also likely be best I sit in between the Mirkwood and Erebor delegations methinks,” she answered earning herself a few chuckles from the three Elf-Lords.

“A good idea Beriaiel, the Council will begin shortly after everyone is settled,” the Half-Elven Lord said, “feel free to go to your kin.”

“Thank you, my Lord,” she responded with a smile before gliding over to her heart-brother and his kin. Her smile only widened over the awe-filled looks she received as she approached.

“You look radiant kurdunana’,” Kíli said as she got closer.

“Thank you Kee, I appreciate your words.”

“The Elf-Lord’s daughter designed this?” Glóin asked in his gruff tone.

“Yes, do you think I could get something similar designed by Súna?” she asked showing off her attire.

“I think Súna would love to try. That lass of Bombur’s comes up with some of the most unique designs,” the once auburn-haired Dwarf said.

“It would certainly make it easier to avoid Assassin’s,” Gimli mused.

“There is that aspect, I would also be able to wear Alagos with more ease,” Aella responded.

“You will have to show Lís the design when we return, I think she would benefit a lot from several outfits like this. Mahal knows she is determined to be exactly like her Aunt Aella,” Kíli commented with an amused smile.

“I might commission some from Súna if she is amiable and give them to her for her next nameday,” she answered. The conversation devolved into general pleasantries as the Men of Rohan arrived, followed shortly after by the delegations from Mithlond and Lothlorien; the Marchwarden Haldir’s younger brothers Rúmil and Orophin attending from the Golden wood. The Northmen of Dale and Esgaroth were represented by Prince Bard II; Bard the Bowman’s great-grandson while Boromir arrived alone several minutes after. He was followed a short time later by Gandalf with Bilbo and Frodo. Leaving Aragorn to slip into the last empty seat just before Elrond deemed it time to start.

“Strangers from distant lands, friends of old. You have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle-Earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite, or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate–this one doom,” he began before gesturing towards the pedestal, and saying, “bring forth the ring Frodo.”

Once the ring was set upon the pedestal, Elrond looked to Gandalf who began to relay his tidings of Saruman and his imprisonment.

“It does not bode well that the Free Peoples have lost yet another ally to the darkness spreading from Mordor,” one of the Lothlorien elves that came with Rúmil and Orophin said.

“Dark tidings must also be reported from Erebor,” Glóin began, with Gimli taking up the tale of the emissary from Mordor, who’s offers of friendship turned to threats when it became clear he would not get the information he wanted from Erebor. Aella listened as Legolas gave his report of Gollum, and the creatures escape and quieted the rumblings from the Dwarrow with a glance. A glance at Elrond told her she would be next in her report.

Beriaiel, you have recently returned from the East what news have you?” Elrond prompted, earning whispers from the Council attendees. Deciding standing would make it easier to project her voice, Aella did so, making sure to pull her hair across her right shoulder as she did so – leaving the Mark of the Valar visible for all to see.

“Yes, indeed I have Lord Elrond. I will admit to the council that at first, I only sought to learn from the healers of the East and South as I had heard tales of their unusual but highly effective medicine practices,” she began, “while I was there however I found rumours of discontent among the people, many did not wish to serve the Eye or be subservient to Mordor any longer. It was only upon meeting the Blue Wizards – who have taken the names Morinehtar and Rómestámo – that I began to help them fan the flames as it were. Over the last three decades we have managed to incite a rebellion in the East, and at least ten out of the twenty-seven tribes of Harad have named Mordor an enemy; three from Far Harad and seven from Near Harad. Rhûn is in civil war, and the ten Free tribes have taken to cause trouble to those still enslaved.”

“How can this be when Gondor’s southern borders are still tested time and again,” Boromir demanded.

“Only one of the Free tribes lives close to the borders of South Gondor, their lands are those on the southern bank of the mouth of the River Harnen. They have been known to destroy the Haradric army’s supply line, mostly stealing what they can. Between their efforts and the efforts of Gondor’s soldiers, it is no wonder the Haradrim have not crossed the River Poros in over three decades,” Aella explained, choosing her words carefully as she watched the Gondorian Captain, “you have seen a decrease in Gondorian blood split in those clashes as well I believe Captain, it is now truly only the filth of Mordor causing you trouble.” Boromir seemed to consider her words before tilting his head in acknowledgement.

“What is it that Alatar and Pallando are doing in the meantime?” Gandalf asked.

“Morinehtar has taken Harad and has been working with the Clan Chiefs of the Free Tribes. They have been busy seeking to gain more allies from the other tribes, last I had heard we may be gaining allies or at least neutral parties from another three tribes. Rómestámo on the other hand is helping lead the rebellion in Rhûn. He and the Rebel leaders have been causing havoc for the enslavers looking to fill ranks in the tributary army that is being sent to Mordor. The only clans we will likely never convince to rebel at this stage are the Varaigs, the Wainriders and Balchoth, and the Black Serpents. They are not just the most warlike tribes but have been loyal to Sauron since their first corruption.”

“If it should come to all out War would they fight with us?” Glorfindel asked.

“I believe they would if they understood the risks involved should they not,” Aella responded, “though I believe it is more a question of if the Men of the West would fight with them. There has been years fraught with enmity but our allies in the East and the South are willing to set aside the grudge.”

“My father would never agree,” Boromir stated, “and I will admit, I would need convincing.”

“The Free Tribes of Harad should the need arise, would flank the Haradrim force. Gondor will not be forced to put aside their enmity yet. As for your father Boromir, it is you who is Captain-General of Gondor and so it would be you alone that would need to approve. Denethor has long since stepped away from military decisions and strategy, that has fallen to you and your brother since you were old enough to take rank,” Aella responded firmly, demonstrating that despite keeping her distance she had kept tabs on the boys, turned men. Boromir was silent a moment before his eyes were drawn to the gold band on the plinth and he also stood up, stepping towards the Ring.

“In a dream, I saw the Eastern side grow dark but, in the West, a pale light lingered. A voice was crying: ‘Your doom is near at hand. Isildur’s Bane is found. I did not see how, but I see it is true.”

“Boromir!” Elrond called out warningly.

As Aella rushed to the Gondorian’s side and caught his wrist, Gandalf began to shout in Black Speech, the sky darkening and the elven members of the council flinching in pain, “[Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul]

Boromir jerked his wrist from her grip as it slackened as Aella staggered under the immense pressure building behind her eyes, and as searing pain ignited on her left shoulder blade. As the sky lightened so too did the ache and Aella took note that Boromir had finally sat down again, so she followed suit waving away Kíli’s concerned look.

“Never before has any voice uttered the words of that tongue here in Imladris,” Elrond chided.

“I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond, for the Black Speech of Mordor may yet be heard in every corner of the West! The Ring is altogether evil,” the Istar said gruffly as he retook his seat.

“It is a gift!” Boromir inserted insistently, standing again to begin pacing, “a gift to the foes of Mordor! Why not use this Ring? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe! Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy. Let us use it against him!”

“You cannot wield it! None of us can,” Aragorn responded, “the One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master.”

“And what would a ranger know of this matter?” the Captain-General asked rudely, inciting the Woodland Prince Legolas to stand.

“This is no mere ranger. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance,” the ellon said angrily. Boromir looked at Aragorn in disbelief.

“Aragorn? … This is Isildur’s heir?”

“And heir to the throne of Gondor,” the blonde ellon stated.

Havo dad Legolas,” Aragorn said with a wince.

“Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king,” Boromir said gruffly as he finally retook his seat.

I would beg to differ,” Aella muttered in Khuzdul under her breath, earning herself an odd look from Kíli.

“Aragorn is right. We cannot use it,” Gandalf said breaking the uncomfortable silence that had befallen the council.

“You have only one choice. The Ring must be destroyed,” Elrond said, with an analysing stare.

“What are we waiting for?” Gimli cried out, grabbing his axe and charging the pedestal before Glóin or Kíli could stop him. The Dwarf striked out at the ring with all his strength, only to be thrown back amidst several shards from his axe with the remaining shards laying around the untouched band in the centre of the plinth. Aella hissed under her breath as her left shoulder began to sting.

“The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Glóin by any craft that we here possess. The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came,” Elrond stated, even as Kíli stepped forward to help his younger cousin to his feet, “one of you must do this.”

“One does not simply walk into Mordor,” Boromir spoke up breaking the silence that had fallen, “its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. And the great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland. Riddled with fire and ash and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly!”

“Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said? The Ring must be destroyed!” Legolas cried leaping to his feet once again.

“And I suppose you think you’re the one to do it?!” Gimli retorted at the blond ellon despite Kíli’s attempt to shut him up.

“And if we fail, what then?! What happens when Sauron takes back what is his?!” Boromir cried back rising to his own feet.

“I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an elf!” the auburn-haired Dwarf growled. Aella sighed heavily as she watched the Elvish delegation from Mirkwood rise to their feet, even as the few other Dwarrow who had come with Kíli, Glóin, and Gimli stood to back up the young Dwarf Lord.

“Do you not understand that while we bicker among ourselves, Sauron’s power grows?! None can escape it!” Gandalf shouted as he joined the growing argument.

Kíli rejoined Aella, seating himself heavily as they watched the council devolve as one of Elfhelm’s men cried out, “you’ll all be destroyed!” Which had the effect of drawing the Lothlorien delegation into the fight. Aella let her blue-grey eyes fall upon the two Hobbits, heart-aching for the older of the two who appeared devastated. Movement from his side saw Aella watching Frodo approach the pedestal before he tried to make himself heard.

“I will take it! I will take it!” Silence began to fall over the argument as the participants heard the Hobbit.

“I will take the Ring to Mordor. Though…I do not know the way,” the Hobbit said yet again once he had the attention of the Council.

“I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, so long as it is yours to bear,” Gandalf said solemnly, patting the Hobbit on the shoulder. Aella muffled a curse as she saw Aragorn rise and kneel before Frodo,

“If by my life or death, I can protect you, I will,” the Ranger said, “you have my sword.”

“And my bow!” Legolas was quick to offer.

“And my axe,” Gimli was even quicker, even as the ellon and Dwarf shared dark looks.

Boromir rose from his seat and approached the Hobbit before saying, “you carry the fates of us all little one. If this is indeed the will of the council, then Gondor will see it done.” Aella could feel Kíli’s dark eyes boring into the side of her face just as Sam followed shortly by Merry and Pippin all pledged themselves.

Don’t you dare Aella” he muttered even as she rose from her seat, all eyes turning to her.

Aella looked down at the hand that had shot out to stop her from walking forward before looking into Kíli’s eyes, “I must, this is yet another task I must fulfil Kee and I shall see it done.” The Dwarf Prince looked conflicted for a moment before he sighed heavily and stood up shifting his grip to take her hand and squeezing it even as she shot him a bewildered glance.

“Then it would be remiss of me to stop the Valar’s Champion, but for my own sake I will be joining you on the road once again,” he stated clearly.

“But Lilja…”

“Will likely agree that it is for the best, Fíli is going to have a heart attack when he hears about what you got yourself into,” he answered before raising a dark brow at her. Aella simply nodded before leading the Prince over to the waiting Fellowship, all of whom were watching them curiously – though Gandalf did so knowingly.

“You will have yet two more on this journey,” Kíli said speaking to the dark-haired Hobbit, “Erebor will aid the ringbearer.”

“You bear a heavy burden Frodo, but I shall do what I can to help you shoulder it,” Aella said taking the Hobbit’s hand and squeezing it reassuringly before turning to speak to the council, “it is time once again that I represent the Valar’s wishes, so I will be joining this fellowship not as Aella of the Dúnedain, or Aella of Erebor. It will be as Beriaiel that I make this journey.” Her words rang out strong and clear, and Aella was sure she heard a bell sound marking her words.

“Eleven companions,” Elrond stated after a moment looking over he gathered Company, before intoning “so be it! You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!”

“Great. Where are we going?” Pippin asked, earning various groans and chuckles from the Fellowship. Aella simply shook her head, with an amused smile. It was going to be an interesting journey, of that she was sure.